How To Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death (WSoD): 13 Methods

May 13, 2024  | How ToWebsite Maintenance

Picture this: You go to your WordPress backend to update your website, only to see… well, nothing.

A blank white screen.

Your browser’s finished loading, and yet… there’s nothing there.


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You’re a victim of the WordPress White Screen of Death, or WSOD. As silly as that name sounds, it’s ridiculously frustrating for website admins.

If your site’s down and you can’t log in, you’re losing visitors, customers, and sales. 💸

Thankfully, this is a common WordPress error, and it’s usually easy to fix.

Below, we show you how to bring your WordPress site back to life and who to call for help if you need it.

What Is the White Screen of Death in WordPress?

The WordPress White Screen of Death is a fatal error that displays a blank page when you try to access your website. It can affect certain pages, just the frontend, just the backend, or the whole site, with these last two cases preventing you from logging into your admin dashboard.

It’s very similar to another common WordPress problem – the Critical Error. However, the main difference is that, with a WSOD, there’s no error message.

Here’s what you’ll see:

Nothing at all.

So Why Are You Seeing the WordPress White Screen of Death Error?

WordPress WSOD errors often occur because of these common causes:

  • There’s an error with your PHP code
  • Your installed plugins or theme are incompatible with your version of WordPress
  • You’ve exceeded the memory limits set by your host
  • There are problems with your hosting provider
  • Your WordPress core files are malfunctioning or are corrupted
  • Your scripts are unresponsive and are timing out due to no activity
  • Your site has developed internal syntax errors

Don’t panic. These are all fixable issues, and we’re here to help!

13 WordPress WSoD Error Fixes

Start by backing up your WordPress website in case more problems occur, and switch on automated backups so you always have save points to reload from.

If you’re experiencing the WP admin white screen of death, you need another way to access WordPress.

Before starting, download an FTP (file transfer protocol) or SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) client and get your login details from your host.

FTP software, like FileZilla or Cyberduck, helps you make the changes we recommend below,

We’ve split our WordPress white screen of death fix tutorial into three sections:

  1. Common, easy fixes
  2. More technical fixes that need more effort
  3. Options on who to call for help

If you don’t feel comfortable changing your site or would prefer to speak to an expert, skip straight to step 13 and get help now.

How to fix white screen of death WordPress issues

Common fixesIn brief
1. Wait and refresh the pageRefresh the page and see if it disappears – the WSOD is sometimes a temporary glitch
2. Check for server availabilityCheck the “Is This Website Down” tool to see if your host has server problems
3. Clear browser and WordPress cachesEmpty your browser and website caches to check if outdated files are causing a conflict
4. Check your admin email for a recovery mode linkSearch your emails for a legitimate message from WordPress to see if there’s a recovery link to help you get back in
5. Increase your memory limitUse an FTP program to edit your website’s code and boost your website’s processing power
6. Look at themes and pluginsTurn plugins on and off through FTP to check if there’s a conflict, and do the same with your current theme
More technical fixes
7. Check for file permission issuesLog into FTP and edit file permissions based on WordPress’s recommendations
8. Check for failed auto-updatesCheck your FTP for a temporary “.maintenance” file and delete it
9. Resolve syntax errorsRestore your site backup or file backups if you recently edited code
10. Increase your PHP processing capabilityEdit website code through FTP to improve your PHP prowess
11. Enable WP_DEBUG and look for answersRevise your wp-config.php file via FTP to trigger your website to show an error message
12. Restore a backupUse a plugin like UpdraftPlus to restore any previously saved versions of your website
Call in the cavalry
13. Ask an expert for helpContact your web host or a WordPress developer to take care of the error for you

Common fixes

These fixes usually restore WordPress sites from the WSOD quickly, and they’re easy enough to manage on your own.

1. Wait and refresh the page


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No, really. Sometimes, the white page is just a glitch.

Collect your thoughts and refresh the page. If your login screen is back up or your site is acting normally, it was a temporary internal fault.

However, if it starts to happen more frequently and for longer periods of time, consider trying the next steps.

2. Check for server availability

Sometimes, WSOD errors occur because of problems with your WordPress host’s servers.

Head to Is This Website Down?: a free tool that helps you check whether a website is up and running and, if it isn’t, what’s causing the problem.

Sometimes, it might advise you that browser caching is to blame. In which case, keep reading!

If not, and it’s a server problem, contact your host immediately for support, as the error lies on their side.

3. Clear browser and WordPress caches

Caches are useful for making browsing faster, but if you let them clog up with data, they can cause various issues.

You might experience a WSOD because data in your browser’s cache conflicts with what’s live on your website.

Let’s use Chrome. Click the three dots at the top right, then scroll down and hover over “More Tools.”

Here, click “Clear Browsing Data” to open up a new screen.

On this screen, select “All time” from the “Time range” dropdown, and check the boxes marked “Browsing history” and “Cached images and files.”

You can also delete cookies, but remember this usually logs you out of websites you visited previously.

Now, click “Clear data” and try accessing your site again.

No luck? Let’s try clearing your WordPress cache.

Log into your web host’s user portal. Many hosts, such as WP Engine, automatically cache data for you. So, let’s use them as an example.

Log into WP Engine’s User Portal and head toward “Sites,” clicking on the name of your website. Then, select “Cache” and then “Clear all caches.”

In the future, we recommend using a caching plugin such as WP Rocket, which caches data for you within the admin dashboard.

4. Check your admin email for a recovery mode link

Sometimes, WordPress sends emails out to help you recover your site from errors.

Log into your admin email and search for WordPress, opening and reading any email you find.

Toward the end of the email, you likely see details about what’s causing the WSOD, plugins or assets WordPress believes are causing the problem, and a recovery link.

Make sure the email is from an official WordPress account. WordPress never asks you for your login credentials or asks you to install additional software.

If you’re confident the email is legitimate, click the recovery link, and you should regain access to your dashboard.

Head to “Plugins” and deactivate the rogue software mentioned in the email.

5. Increase your memory limit

Thanks to limits set by your host, there’s a good chance your site’s PHP has run out of memory.

Ensure you have your host’s permission to increase your PHP memory limit and log into FileZilla with your credentials. You should see your website’s root folder, usually “public_html.”

You should find a file called “wp-config.php” here. This is a code file you need to edit. Right-click it and download a copy to your drive so you have a backup, and then open the file directly.

You should now see a long list of code you can add to with a text editor. Look for a line beginning with “define{ ‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’”

If you don’t see it, look for the line:

/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

 

Now, insert the following line of code above it:

define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘512M’);

 

This increases your memory limit to 512 MB. If this doesn’t work, you can also edit “.htaccess” from your root folder:

Follow the same process as above to save a copy and open the file directly in FileZilla. Now, add the following code to the file and save:

php_value memory_limit 512M

6. Look at themes and plugins

There’s a chance your WordPress plugins or theme are clashing with WordPress itself, so the next step is to deactivate them all!

If you can still log into WordPress, head to the “Plugins” section and check the box near the top to select them all. Then, from “Bulk Actions,” select “Deactivate” and then “Apply.”

Check if your website loads properly. If it does, there’s a faulty plugin.

Now, start by reactivating all of your plugins one by one and checking your website as you go. If your website crashes with the WSOD again, you know you’ve found the culprit. Delete the plugin and look for an alternative.

If you don’t have dashboard access, head to the wp-content folder in FTP and look for the folder named “Plugins.”

Rename the “Plugins” folder to something you’re going to remember. Then, check your web page. If it’s back live, it’s a plugin to blame.

Go back to FileZilla, rename the plugins folder back to its default, and open it to view your plugins.

Now, you need to rename each plugin, checking your website each time. If it comes back live, you’ve found the rogue plugin and can deactivate it.

Now, onto your theme. If you can access your WordPress admin dashboard, head to “Appearance” and “Themes” and look for a default WordPress theme from the library. We suggest something simple like “Twenty Twenty-Three.”

Follow the steps on-screen to activate the theme and then reload your website.

If you can’t log into the dashboard, head to the Themes folder and, as with plugins, rename the theme file for your active theme.

Try reaccessing WordPress. If you can log in, you’ve likely found your problem, so head to “Appearance” and “Themes” and install a new one.

More technical fixes

The following steps are a little more involved and can require some trial and error. If you’d prefer to ask a developer to help with these steps, head to step 13.

7. Check for file permission issues

File and folder permissions decide who can and can’t view your site and its content. Sometimes, permission errors can cause the WSOD to pop up.

So, set your permissions to the values WordPress requires. This means typing numerical codes into FileZilla, which tells WordPress to allow access to the right people.

Head to FileZilla and right-click public_html to open “File Attributes.” Select this to open the permissions screen.

At this screen, you must enter three-digit codes recommended by WordPress’s Codex.

In “Numeric Value,” enter “755” or “750,” check “Recurse into subdirectories,” and select “Apply to directories only.” Then, click OK.

That’s changed directory permissions. Now, you need to change file permissions. So, right-click public_html again, and this time, enter “644” or “640,” check the box for “Recurse into subdirectories,” and select “Apply to files only” before clicking OK.

Do the same with “wp-config.php,” your main configuration file, found inside public_html.

Right-click the file and choose “File Permissions.” On the next screen, Enter “440” as the numeric value and click OK. Check your site.

If this doesn’t work, there are other ways to edit site permissions, but you need tech support. So, make sure to contact StateWP.

8. Check for failed auto-updates

It’s rare, but WordPress can sometimes time out on auto-updating when servers develop errors. This can produce the WSOD, so you need to check that the site is not stuck in the middle of an update.

Head to FileZilla and look inside public_html for “.maintenance.” This is a temporary file that can get stuck during updates.

Using FTP to find .maintenance file

Delete the file. If your site is back up, the update went through fine. Otherwise, it might take some time to restart.

9. Resolve syntax errors

Syntax errors pop up when a rogue piece of code isn’t working properly. For example, you might have edited code recently, which resulted in the WSOD.

Resolving syntax errors is often as simple as restoring files to their previous versions. If you know the file you edited to trigger the error, if you have a backup, simply re-upload it via FileZilla and overwrite the faulty file:

If you don’t know where the syntax error is, it’s probably best to restore a backup from scratch. That’s step 12.

10. Increase your PHP processing capability

Speaking of editing code, here’s another trick you can try by pasting a command into wp-config.php.

Sometimes, pages and posts are too long or complex for your site’s PHP to process. In this case, you can turbo-charge it.

Head to your root folder in FileZilla, save a copy of wp-config if you haven’t already, and open the file.

Add in the following above the “happy blogging” line:

/* Trick for long posts /
ini_set(‘pcre.recursion_limit’,20000000);
ini_set(‘pcre.backtrack_limit’,10000000);

 

Now, save the WordPress file and reload your website to see if it’s back up again.

11. Enable WP_DEBUG and look for answers

WordPress debugging can initially seem complex, but it’s a great way to troubleshoot many of the most common WordPress errors.

To enable debugging mode and view the error logs, you need to edit wp-config again. However, there should already be this code:

define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, false );

 

Edit “false” to say “true” and then reassess your site. You should now see an error message instead of the WSOD, like so:

This error debug log should give you more of an idea of what’s causing the problem.

If debug mode hasn’t helped at all, skip to step 13 and speak to a WordPress dev.

12. Restore a backup

If all else fails, simply restore a previous site backup. That is, of course, if you’ve saved one. If you’ve never saved a backup before, move to the next step.

If you have a backup plugin, like UpdraftPlus, head to its menu, select your backups, and choose one to restore.

That is, of course, if you can access the dashboard. If not, you might need to go through your host’s cpanel.

Let’s use WP Engine as an example. In the User Portal, select your site from the “Sites” page and click “Backups.”

Then, find the backup you want to reload, click the three dots, and then “Restore.” Choose where you want to restore it to, and you’re good to go.

Call in the cavalry

If you tried all the above and still see an infuriating white screen (or your WP site doesn’t work in some other way), it’s time to reach out. Here’s what to do.

13. Ask an expert for help

As you can see, in some cases, web hosts can help you diagnose and even fix problems that trigger the WordPress White Screen of Death.

In that case, it’s wise to contact them for help if they store your backups or if you simply need to empty the site cache.

However, for a faster fix and specialist advice, consider raising the error with a WordPress developer – such as a member of the StateWP support team.

Through our dashboard, Proto, which you can access via the WordPress backend, you can raise service requests directly with our experts to expedite your WSOD fix. We aim to respond and repair problems within a day or receiving your request.

If you don’t have access to the WP dashboard, don’t despair! You just need to call or email us – that’s no problem at all for us. We still promise you the same speed and expertise to get your site back online quickly.

How To Prevent the WordPress White Screen of Death

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than a cure. Here are a few quick tips to help you fortify your website against the dreaded WSOD in the future!

  • Only install plugins and themes through WordPress’s library. Installing third-party plugins and themes means you risk no future updates.
  • Use a staging site to test code and updates. Web hosts like WPengine offer “practice sites” or staging environments where you can test code edits and apply updates without affecting your live site.
  • Back up your site and files in multiple locations. Install a backup plugin for WordPress and set up automatic backups just in case. If you lose access to your dashboard, set up further backups through your host.

Follow these steps, and you shouldn’t need to know how to fix the WordPress white screen of death in the first place!

Escape From the Clutches of the WordPress White Screen of Death

The WordPress White Screen of Death is a menace. It strikes just when you least expect it, and it can be pretty scary the first time around.


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But fear not. The problem is usually caused by coding or software faults or by incorrect updates. Using our guide above, you should be able to bounce back with a live site in no time.

However, there’s another option.

As a StateWP partner, you always have 24/7 monitoring and troubleshooting for the WSOD and other WordPress errors.

Why waste time fixing it yourself when a talented dev can get you back online before anyone (read: your clients) even notices there was an error in the first place?

Get in touch to learn more about how we can support you.

In the meantime, start getting into good habits with our complete WordPress maintenance checklist.

WordPress WSoD FAQs

Now you know how to fix WordPress white screen of death issues, let’s close with some common queries.

Why is my website showing a white screen?

Your website might show a white screen because of an error with your site’s code, PHP, plugins, or themes you’re using. It can even appear if you simply need to empty your browser and WordPress caches.

Take a look at our full list of reasons why you’re seeing the white screen of death.

Why is my WordPress dashboard blank?

Your WordPress dashboard might be blank because of coding bugs, database errors, or PHP errors. Typically, websites and dashboards go blank or show white screens when there are server communication issues.

Thankfully, there are ways to fix this issue without logging in – with the file manager or an FTP client such as FileZilla. Read our guide to learn more.

Can the white screen of death be fixed?
Yes, the WordPress White Screen of Death can be fixed by emptying your browser and website caches, checking plugins and themes, and ensuring you have the right permissions set to access your content.

In some cases, restoring a backup from before the error occurred can solve this problem. This is certainly the case if you recently edited code, for example!

How do I debug the WordPress white screen of death?
  1. Log into an FTP client such as FileZilla
  2. Look for the wp-config.php file
  3. Save a copy of the file and open it in FileZilla
  4. Look for the code starting with “define( ‘WP_DEBUG’”
  5. Change the “false” in this line to “true” and save the file
  6. Refresh your website in your browser – there should now be an error message telling you why your site’s unresponsive
How do I fix the white screen of death on WordPress?
  1. Refresh your website browser
  2. Check the server’s active
  3. Clear your browser and website caches
  4. Enter recovery mode and deactivate a rogue plugin
  5. Boost your PHP memory
  6. Deactivate and reactivate plugins and themes one by one
  7. Set file permissions to default
  8. Erase the .maintenance file in FTP
  9. Restore backups of edited files (or your whole site)
  10. Boost your PHP power
  11. Start debug mode and check for error messages
  12. Ask a WordPress developer for help
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